Challenges of the Global Village: Appalachia and the Ties that Bind
Kentucky writer Barbara Kingsolver was raised in rural Kentucky and lived for a time in the Congo where her parents served in the public health field when she was a child. She attended DePauw University on a piano scholarship but graduated with a science degree. After a year living in France and Europe, she settled in Tucson where she attended graduate school at the University of Arizona, receiving a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Kingsolver worked as a science writer for the University, doing freelance journalism and going on to become an established free-lance author. She published her first novel The Bean Trees in 1988. Kingsolver lived for a year in the Canary Islands, when her daughter Camille was small, taking a break from US politics and hoping for a Spanish language immersion experience for Camille. However, she was also disillusioned with the first Gulf War and American military ventures, finally returning to the States in 1992. During these years, Kingsolver became a full-time writer, publishing books such as Homeland and Other Stories in 1989, Animal Dreams in 1990, and Pigs in Heaven in 1993—her writing interests centering on the dynamics of family, social justice, environmental themes, and the outcasts of society who struggled against powerful patriarchal forces that control all our destinies. These early novels were skillfully written and award-winning publications; however, the success of The Poisonwood Bible, published in 1998, pushed Kingsolver into the top-tier of American writers, the book remaining on the bestseller list for more than a year and becoming an Oprah Book Club selection, as well as winning the National Book Prize of South Africa and being shortlisted for both Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner awards. In 2000, Kingsolver was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Clinton, and in 2010 Lacuna won the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in Britain. Other fiction awards include the James Beard Award, the Edward Abbey EcoFiction Award, Lifetime Achievement Award by the Library of Virginia, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.Kingsolver’s diverse writing includes essay collections High Tide in Tucson (1995) and Small Wonder (2002), poetry collections Another America (1992) and How to Fly (2020), nonfiction works Holding the Line, Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike (1983) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007), the latter written with her husband Steven Hopp and daughter Camille. Recent novels connected to Appalachia are Prodigal Summer (2000), Flight Behavior (2012), and Unsheltered (2018). Kingsolver’s next novel, to be published by Harper Collins next fall, is set in the Appalachian heartland. Today, Kingsolver lives with her family on a farm in Washington County, Virginia. Kingsolver is the 24th Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence at Shepherd University and the 2022 One Book One West Virginia Common Read Author for the State. Her novel Flight Behavior has been selected as the WV Common Read for 2022.